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New Philips Hue LED multi-color strips for a hefty new price

New Philips Hue LED multi-color strips for a hefty new price

Philips announced today a series of new products ranging from new light strips, Hue Iris, new low-cost white bulbs, etc. 

The new Philips Hue Play Gradient Lightstrip is designed to integrate seemlessly with the Philie Hue Play HDMI Sync Box. Any HDMI device will be able to be connected to the new light strip.

This new light strip comes in three lengths, as it was built with TV sets in mind and you will be able to order it in 55 inch, 65 inch and 75 inch.

The previous light strips were limited to a single color and did not support multi-color, which has now been addressed with individually addressable LEDs to provide quote “immerse home theater experience”.

You will be able to order this light strip on October 16th 2020 for a price of $199. Yes, this is correct. Philips is asking for $200 for the 55 inch version, $220 for the 65 inch and $240 for the 75 inch version. This is more than twice the price of the previous light strip version resulting in a 250% price increase. 

I would like to point out that LIFX has been offering multi-color light strips for under $100 for over 4 years now. But it doesn’t stop there. You will have to pay another $230 for the Hue Play HDMI Sync Box bringing your total price to $430. 

Let’s compare the new light strip with the cheapest version of strip you can find today on Amazon. There are hundreds of TV backlight LED products on Amazon.

The first one I could find supporting music sync without having to use an App on your phone or a remote to run scenes and has a built-in microphone to sync with the TV sound is the one on the right. It is currently priced at $26.59. This is 6.2% of the price for the Hue Strip and HDMI sync box combined.

The lighting experience is certainly not the same as they don’t come with individual addressable LEDs, so if you care about different fading colors at the same time behind the TV, then you could invest $89,99 for the LIFX Z TV strip, which is 21% in comparison to Philips.

The downside with LIFX Z TV strip is that you will have to use an app on your phone, a raspberry PI running proxy software, or a mac pc running the proxy software to synchronize with the sound of the TV.

Granted, Philips has the most elegant solution with the HDMI sync box and no sound interference from other sources and sound sync in real-time, but that price is simply too high.

Let’s compare value. On the left side you see my installation of 64 feet 16 million colors LED strip with remote control, built-in microphone on the switch and app control on your phone. This setup will cost you on Amazon $48,59. Yes, 64 feet of LEDs for less than $50 and it works in conjunction with your TV sound as long as you have no other sound interference in the room. 

It does not offer the individual addressable LED sections to provide multi-color fading, so you can only face from one color into the other or when the sound changes the colors fade and change, but it is always one color for the strip and in different brightness depending on your sound.

 With that said, the new Philips Hue strip has certainly benefits compared to all the other options outlined here, but the price is not justified. Let’s see how the market will adopt those new LED strips from Hue. Time will tell.

LIFX plans to attack Corona Virus Covid-19 with new “LIFX clean” bulbs

LIFX plans to attack Corona Virus Covid-19 with new “LIFX clean” bulbs

LIFX is planning to help the fight against Corona Virus Covid-19. Buddy Technologies, the mother company of LIFX announced their latest innovation by the name of “LIFX clean”. Those new bulbs are going to be released in Australia, New Zealand and Europe once they passed all safety and regulatory testing. This new product is also already in the Covid-19 testing queue. 

According to LIFX this new bulb is the “world’s first disinfecting anti-bacterial smart light”. The bulb will disinfect surfaces and surrounding air using High Energy Visibile (HEV) light. 

The first phase is scheduled for the 4th quarter of 2020. The second phase will be the launch in USA and Canada, which requires to pass different safety and regulatory requirements. 

With that said, the new bulbs will be priced at $99,99 Australian dollar, so we can expect a similar price range for US. 

Immediate concerns were raised about safety for humans and pets, the potential effects on skin or increasing the risk of cancer, potential impact on human or animal eyes, etc. Buddy Technologies addressed the Australian Share Market with a letter stating:

  • LiFX Clean is a fully functional white + colour smart light that also uses germicidal antibacterial light to disinfect surfaces and surrounding air
  • In a smart lighting world-first, by using 405 nanometre High Energy Visible (HEV) light that is safe for humans, pets and plants, LiFX Clean offers an effortless way to maximise the cleanliness of home environments
  • LiFX Clean has passed efficacy testing in laboratory testing conducted by the Department of Chemistry and Biotechnology at Australia’s Swinburne University of Technology, as well as IEC and safety testing at UL Verification Services in Guangzhou
  • Whilst LIFX Clean is currently in the testing queue for efficacy against the SARS-CoV-2 virus (which can cause the COVID-19 disease), no claim is currently being made that the product is effective in an antiviral capacity of any kind, including on SARS-CoV-2
  • Priced at A$99.99 / US$69.99 / CA$79.99 / €69.99 / £59.99, LIFX Clean is an affordable and accessible new anti-bacterial product, providing broad access to consumers in a time of enormous demand for cleaning products. It is expected to be released to the market in calendar Q4.

In summary… it is great to see that a company is thinking outside the box trying to help with the Corona Virus Covid-19 pandemic. Yes, a lot of tests have to be completed and certainly long-term studies will follow, but during desparate times need any help we can get.

Instead of cleaning all surfaces multiple times per day, having the light bulbs do the work for us and reducing our exposure to harsh chemicals is a good thing. There are so many other use cases for those bulbs ranging from public restrooms, public baths, movie theaters, etc using those bulbs with or without humans in the room.

A potential impact on plants has also been raised by various people and so far there is no indication of any impact on plants, but again time and testing will tell. Go LIFX and fight all bacteria!

 

 

 

Light-Motion combination switch

Light-Motion combination switch

GE/Jasco released a new Z-wave certified switch in Dec 2016, which was made available on Amazon in April 2017. There was no press release or announcement and many people don’t even know that such a switch even exists hence my blog posting here.

The smart hub community quickly jumped on that in Feb 2017 requesting support and given the wide support of GE switches across many smart home hubs, this switch has been integrated rather quickly (Pulse, Trane, Wink, Nexia, Honeywell, HomeSeer, Smart Security, Harmony, Vera, Smartthings and Connect).

What’s the use case for this switch? Before this switch was released you could buy a Z-wave light switch (on/off or dimmer) and then you had to buy a motion sensor separately. As an example you would install this switch in your bathroom/toilet room and then you had to install a motion sensor somewhere in the same room.

Unless you have a power outlet close and a clunky power supply in that outlet to power your motion sensor, you would have to buy a battery operated Z-wave motion sensor or use a USB outlet and wire the motion sensor with a USB cable. Most people went with battery operated motion sensors which have a standard of 4 min timeout setting to preserver battery life.

This setup required you to purchase the light switch and the motion sensor separately which costs anywhere from $35 to $45 for the switch and $20 to $35 for the motion sensor for a total of $55 to $80 dollars.The new GE26933 combination switch is selling for $55 dollars which is a very reasonable price for a combination of both.

The beauty of having such a combination switch is that the motion sensor is not battery operated and the hassle with wakeup and timeout settings doesn’t apply. As a result you can configure this switch on a very granular level and you don’t have to worry about wires coming from your motion sensor to your outlet trying to have a permanently powered motion sensor like the GE 6 in 1 sensor, which is a great product by itself.

You have a single switch combining motion and light switch into one device. In addition it is a dimmer so you can adjust the brightness above and below the actual motion window of the switch. This switch also supports “Last level” which means when you use the dimming function to lower the brightness to e.g. 50% the next time you power on those lights, it will be at 50%.

This switch comes with a variety of options you can configure via Z-wave settings. You have 19 parameter settings you can use to adjust this switch ranging from Timeout duration e.g. 5 min (default) to 30 min or no timeout, motion sensitivity from high to low with medium being the default, Light sensing on or off to the most important parameter which is operation mode with manual, vacancy or occupancy. You can find more details for those parameters here https://products.z-wavealliance.org/products/2108/configs

For smart home hub integration you switch to manual and your smart home hub will detect 2 Z-wave devices. The actual light switch and the motion sensor enabling you to create now scenes or events based on those devices or other devices from your smart home hub.

 

Most bathroom/toilet rooms have a fan switch right next to the light switch. You can now configure an event where you specify things like

if motion detected

turn on lights and turn on fan

for 5 minutes

and then turn off lights and fan

When you integrate your GE26933 switch into your smart hub system make sure to properly save those parameters e.g. Homeseer settings on the picture. Even before you set those parameters your smart hub system should find 2 devices (switch and motion) but motion will not change status as the default parameter setting for this switch is occupancy with 5 minutes.

The other benefit of having a permanently powered motion sensor is not having to deal with any wakeup and timeout values. You can go as low as 1 minute intervals for this light switch. If your switch is facing the restroom toilet with a setting of 1 minute unless the person sitting on the toilet doesn’t move for 60 seconds, will reset the timeout value continuously but again this is adjustable up to 30 min as needed.

In summary, many smart home owners were requesting for years a combination switch from the vendors and GE finally delivered and hopefully more vendors will follow. This switch can be used in many use cases ranging from garage lighting leveraging the daylight sensor to restrooms with no light or window allowing you to configure your room and lighting what fits your needs the best.

The price is very reasonable and totally justifies switching from two separate devices to a single device with the additional benefit of not having to deal with batteries and wires and two separate devices. Great addition to the Z-wave family of light switches from GE and I hope my blog post sparked some ideas for you on how to improve your smart home even further. Personally I already installed two of those at my home and I am going to add more.

Connected Home vs Smart Home

Connected Home vs Smart Home

People believe “smart homes” and “connected homes” are the same. You might even see terms like “true smart home”, where companies try to bring their point across of having a home, which is more than an assembly of connected devices. Let’s look into those terms and define, what a “smart home” really is.

Let’s start with the official definition outlined by Wikipedia. Smart House on Wikipedia refers to Home Automation. Within Home Automation you will find the following definition.

“Home automation or smart home (also known as domotics or domotica) is the residential extension of building automation. It involves the control and automation of lighting, heating (such as smart thermostats), ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), and security, as well as home appliances such as washer/dryers, ovens or refrigerators/freezers. They use Wi-Fi for remote monitoring and are a part of the Internet of things. Modern systems generally consist of switches and sensors connected to a central hub sometimes called a “gateway” from which the system is controlled with a user interface that is interacted either with a wall-mounted terminal, mobile phone software, tablet computer or a web interface, often but not always via internet cloud services.

The key word here is “automation”. Putting so called “smart devices” into a home doesn’t make the home smart. The industry is using the term “smart” for devices, which can be controlled by a smart phone, tablet or nowadays voice control devices like Amazon Echo or Google Home. Another example would be the trend of smart doorbells. Just because a doorbell will notify you on your cell phone, emails or texts you or allows you to speak to your visitor from your cell phone with two-way audio, doesn’t mean you have a smart home.

I created the following picture to demonstrate one example home with smart devices and then I will go into the details with real life use cases/examples of what would make this home a “smart home”.

Smart Home

You can see a lot of devices within this “smart home” ranging from thermostats, speakers, media and entertainment, etc. Most or all of those devices can be controlled from a smart phone, tablet or Alex Echo / Google Home with individual apps or skills (as Amazon calls them). They don’t have to be necessarily have to controlled by a single home automation hub/controller/gateway.

With that said, let’s provide some examples, where the true benefit of having a home automation hub/controller/gateway will showcase, what a “smart home” should look like, otherwise this home would simply be a “connected home”.

Geo Fencing

The most common use case is GEO fencing. GEO fencing is the term for location aware reaction of your home automation system.

geo fence In this example you create either one or two virtual fences around your home. The first fence is very close proximity e.g. 100 to 200 feet to capture if you leave your home. The second fence could be a couple of miles.

Most people go with one fence only but others go with a second one to e.g. set the temperature of the home to a more comfortable setting so by the time they get home, the house is nice and cool or warm and cozy and if it is night, turn on the lights in certain areas of your home and open the garage door, when you approach the inner perimeter.

Yes, you could use your cell phone and open your Nest or Ecobee app, while you are driving, and set the temperature to the desired level. You could press the button in your car to open the garage door, when you are in front of it. The Geo fencing feature does all that for you based on logic you defined and if any delay occurs like traffic jam on the highway, you wouldn’t have to worry about opening your app and changing states of your smart devices.

Disaster Prevention

Less known, but very efficient and effective example is the combination of water shut-off valves and water leak sensors. In the old days you could buy a system, which connected to a telephone line and if the water leak sensor detected a leak, it called out and notified specific people. Those systems were expensive in up front cost and in some cases they charged monthly fees for that service.

In addition to that, the sensors were limited in terms of how many of those sensors could be installed and how long those wires could have been. Those costs and limitations prohibited a wide deployment of such notification systems.

With today’s technology, the picture has changed drastically and situations like on the picture should be a thing of the past. As many wireless water leak sensors you need communicating with your central hub/controller/gateway and in case of a flood the “smart home” will take action, which can be a simply notification via email or text, announcement within the house over all speakers, alarm sirens, etc the options of actions is very long.

This example doesn’t prevent any flooding, but it will take action at the slightest amount of water reaching the water leak sensors, which can prevent coming home to a completely flooded basement. Those costs will run in the thousands of dollars and the best of this whole example is: “Insurance companies will give you a discount, if you install water leak detection systems in your home”. Simply ask your insurance and they will tell you what discount you will receive, if you chose to implement this example.

This applies to home owners and landlords. The investment of having such a system implemented can be recovered after several months or years. Example would be a 10% discount for a home owner insurance of $1,500 per year. Those savings of $150/year would give you a break even point from your investment of 2 or 3 years, not to mention the cost savings of not having to repair a flooded basement or laundry room, which typically range in the area of $3,000 to $5,000 or more.

Energy Control

Another example would be energy control of your home. You could have remote controlled blinds, fans and thermostats in your home. You could use your cell phone, smart tablet or voice to turn those “connected devices” on as needed. A true “smart home” would do the following and this is just one example, which can be adjusted to any need or location…

IF summer AND IF morning AND IF temperature reaches 75 degrees –> THEN lower blinds

IF summer AND IF morning AND IF temperature reaches 75 degrees AND blinds lowered –> THEN turn on ceiling fan

IF summer AND IF morning AND IF temperature reaches 75 degrees AND blinds lowered AND ceiling fan is ON –> THEN power on air condition

In simplified text, this logic does the following. In the morning, when the sun rises, the temperature in your house rises as well. Most households have their thermostat set to a certain temperature, before the air condition kicks in. Even if they have smart thermostats, they will get trigger by a certain temperature.

The example logic above delays the air conditioning kicking in by using the alternative methods of blocking out sun or using ceiling fans first before the more power hungry and costly air conditioning system kicks in. The “smart home” will try to block the sun first by lowering the blinds. If the temperature still rises, then the “smart home” will turn on the ceiling fan. Only if all that isn’t enough, then it will turn on the air condition.

Security and Fire Alarm

The top rated reason for people adopting “smart home technology” is security. The security industry has been around for many years and alarm systems have evolved in many directions over the years. Security systems today include not only window/door sensors, glass break and motion sensors, but also fire alarm detectors and cameras with motion alarm.

Having those notifications going to a service provider, who will call the authorities is a good thing. However, nobody has thought about the actual home owner in those situations. To be more specific, image a fire alarm going off in your home. The sirens will go off, you might get a call from your service provider and the whole family will be up in no time. What is not considered is, how to make this situation easier and less stressful.

Imagine the same scenario, but in this case once the alarm goes off, the lights in the whole house will go on or change color to e.g. red, the blinds will open allowing a clear view from the outside into the house for the firemen, the alarm system will disarm after the authorities have been notified (last thing you need is your alarm system sirens going off just because you or your family opened the door and you forgot to enter the code to disarm the alarm system), the door locks will unlock allowing easy exit of the house, the speakers throughout the whole will announce that there is fire and with the right equipment it can also announce, where in the house fire has been detected. If nobody is home, the home owner will get notified via email, text or phone call from the service provider and from the smart home and having the doors unlocked will allow easy entry into the home for the firemen.

In summary, there is nothing wrong with having a “connected home”. As a matter of fact a connected home is the first step towards a smart home. Yes, it requires some adjustment and logic to be put in place, before a connected home becomes a smart home. The time is worthwhile investing, as the return of the investment will be worth it.

The additional cost of making a connected home to become a smart is much lower compared to making a regular home to become a connected home or smart home. The only challenge with this transformation from connected home to smart home will be the interoperability between the smart devices and the hub/controller/gateway, as not all vendors will support all smart devices.

In some cases workarounds are available and yes, you could use something like IFTTT (If this then that) to create logic for your connected home. IFTTT has a wide variety of supported devices (channels), but you should consider always the worst case, which is when your home might not have any internet connection. Some home automation hub/controller/gateway vendors require an internet connection to be available to conduct any actions in your home, which might not be a good thing in some of the use cases and examples outlined above including IFTTT.

The smart home adoption is at an all-time high and I encourage everybody to invest the time to find the most suitable technology for their homes and families and aim for a true “smart home”.

 

 

C by GE

C by GE

C by GE

GE announced on December 6th 2016 a new line up complementing their C by GE products. GE Lighting already released Bluetooth controller bulbs earlier this year, but now they claim, that they redefined smart living with their new product line.

This new product line is a light with embedded Amazon Alexa functionality. Amazon released their integration options for Alexa Voice services and GE integrated that functionality into their new lighting product.

C by GE Smart Living

“We’re really inspired by voice as an incredible new user interface. We’re giving people an alternative by having this combination for the first time,” Jeff Patton, GE Lighting’s GM for Connected Home Products.

The exact launch date has not been determined yet but according to Jeff Patton, GE is targeting Quarter 1 in 2017. He didn’t reveal the price point either, but he did hint that it will be below $180 dollars.

This new product is already published on the C by GE website https://www.cbyge.com/ and a video has been released as well, highlighting the combination of Alexa Voice services and GE lighting. In addition to that, you can download the C by GE app in the Play Store for Android phones and looking deeper into their app, you can find circadian rhythm and follow the sun concepts.

GE is claiming that “almost” all Alexa services will be available on this new product line. The assumption here would be, that GE did not sign up for the music services of the Alexa Voice service, as this product is a lighting product and not a speaker for playing music.

On the other hand having the Smart Home functionality in Alexa embedded in this lighting product would make sense. So rather making assumptions, let’s wait for the official release.

 

Disclaimer: This blog and tweets represent my own view points and not of my employer, Amazon Web Services.

Cedia 2016 Part2

Cedia 2016 Part2

Control 4

Overview of High End Control 4 system

Lutron

Lutron Lighting solutions working in conjunction with all other Lutron solution options

Control 4

High end lighting solutions from Control 4

Savant Pro

Savant Pro Home Automation solutions

Control 4

High End Home Theater and Audio/Video solutions from Control 4
(On the left) Control 4 had by far the largest exhibitor area at Cedia 2016 but also by far the biggest ego. Making statements like “Our system never fails didn’t go well with integrators”.
(On the right) Lutron was with Savant right behind in terms of size of booth and demo area. Lutron showcased their many home automation solutions.
Another eye catcher were companies like Hidden Vision and FrameMyTV. Below is the video for a hidden weapon framed picture. Their motors are very quiet and the speed is also acceptable. They also have smaller applications for their picture frames for handheld weapons, safe storage, etc. Watch the video below!
FrameMyTV had a smaller booth and their main attraction for integrators was their upcoming shop integration. This will allow integrators to resell the solutions under the integrator’s brand. They are even coming up with co-labelled and un-labelled material for integrators to give to potential customers.
The star of the Cedia 2016 show was something completely different and unexpected. Dome HA showcased the first ever Z-wave enabled Mouse trap. Yes, you read correctly. A mouse trap, which notifies you after the critter has been caught in that trap. Very bizarre use case and not everybody will jump on this offering.
However,this shows that there are endless possibilities for Home Automation and there will be more to come. Cedia was great and looking forward to see you guys at Cedia 2017 in San Diego.

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